What Neil Perry Cooks on a Weeknight

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Apr 24, 2018

From must-have kitchen appliances to speedy midweek meals, the chef has your culinary conundrums covered. Interview by Vanessa Lawrence.

How often should you sharpen your knives at home?

Twice a week on steel. Once every couple of months it’s nice to sharpen your good knives on stone or have them done by a professional. 

What’s an easy meal anyone could whip up during the week?

One of the things I make when I get home late is tomato, bacon and chilli pasta. I’ll fry garlic, “melt” anchovies, throw in some sea salt, chilli flakes and smoked short-cut bacon then add tomatoes. I’ll let that simmer down gently while the pasta cooks. I’ll top it off with a big chunk of parmesan and have it with a glass of red.

What if you have less than 10 minutes?

My wife, Sam, and I probably have a toastie – or a ham and cheese omelette – with a fresh green salad once a week. There’s almost nothing to clean up so we can just relax. I’m into the classic gruyère, ham and tomato but I do like fontina and salami; the thinner the filling, the better.

What do you eat for breakfast?

Two or three days a week, I don’t eat anything – Sam and I do a bit of a fasting thing. Then on the others, I’ll usually have a juice or some seasonal fruit with Meredith Dairy sheep’s-milk yoghurt and honey or Bircher muesli.

If you’re trying to lose weight, what do you eat?

I like a Mediterranean diet, which means small amounts of protein and dairy with lots of greens, nuts, legumes and olive oil.

Is there a kitchen appliance you swear by?

I really love our Breville slow juicer, which squeezes fruit to extract more vitamins and fibre. It gets a workout at least four times a week in our house.

What’s a delicious nibble to serve with drinks?

I always put out some beautiful Spanish anchovies, preserved tuna belly and fresh razor clams with toast and olives. If you’re more low-maintenance, oven-roasted peanuts covered in togarashi [a Japanese spice blend] are a great option. 

If you could only drink one wine for the rest of your life, what would it be?

I’d be happy drinking classic Australian reds like Moss Wood and Yarra Yering – they’re the wines I love to drink at home. 

What does your cellar look like?

It’s a big room with racks on three sides and a tasting bench. I organise my wines by grower, with all of the Giacondas and Mount Marys on the same side and the younger wines stacked above the older ones. I have about 680 bottles.

How much do you drink each day?

I drink well. Every time my doctor says I’m drinking too much, I say, “But I drink six glasses of great wine every day so surely that counts for something!”

What sort of wine glasses do you use?

I use stemmed. We have the whole Riedel tasting range at home. They’re fantastic.

What’s your ultimate comfort food?

A variation of a bacon and egg roll that my father used to make when I was little: toast covered in strawberry jam, topped with really crisp bacon and a fried egg. 

What ingredient are you excited about?

Masa flour. I’ve started making my own tortillas and I’ll never go back to store-bought – they’re so beautiful and fresh.

Any tips for plating up impressive meals?

Letting the food breathe is very important so use a nice plate with a bit of size to it. And I always wipe the plate with tissues to clean up any drips.

Even when you’re at home?

Even then. It shows you care. 

SEE ALSO: Neil Perry’s Kitchen Rules